Tell Me a Story...

The Holding Place: The Story

Photo by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash

Several years ago, my mom shared this personal story by Michael Wilcox (found in his book entitled Walking on Water and Other Classic Messages). 

When Michael was a baby, his father left his mother and she raised her children alone.  Through the years his Dad’s choices caused a lot of pain and heartache for their family.  As a teenager, Michael felt a need to pray for peace, healing and help forgiving his dad.  So he did, and no answer came.  He kept at it, and through the next several years, he prayed for the same thing.  But no answer came.  When he was in his 30’s (married, with two girls and two boys of his own), he was asked to give a talk in church about families.  He sat down to decide what to say, assuming he would just talk about his mom.  But the Spirit whispered “Talk about your Dad.”

My dad? He wondered. What in the world would I say?  But Michael felt prompted to think about him.

Then his two boys, ages 6 and 2, came into the room and just stood there looking at him.  In that moment, hundreds of memories he had shared with these two little guys flooded his mind- many little everyday interactions as well as bigger moments.  And suddenly an answer came- I am now ready to answer your question. Now that you are a father, now that you know a father’s love, would you be the son who lost his father, or the father who lost his son?

He gathered his sons into his arms and cried and cried- for all his father had missed.

Here is the quote that sums it all up:

“Why didn’t my Father in Heaven give me that answer at fifteen, or twenty-one, or twenty-five, or when I was married, or when my daughters were born? He needed to wait until I was a father of sons and had enough experiences with my boys to understand what a sweet thing it is to be a father and share memories with sons. The holding place had to be carved in my heart, and as soon as I could really receive and comprehend the answer, the Lord gave it to me. Maybe we are in the fourth watch, but the Lord is saying to us: I’ll answer your prayer. I’m aware of your needs. It is recorded in heaven, and I’m going to answer it. But right now in your life there’s no place for me to put the answer. Life will create a holding place, and as soon as you are able to receive it, I will give it to you.”

I have retold that story so many time over the last few years, and have found it to be SO true in my own life.  So many times I have wanted an answer but I didn’t have a place to receive it- yet.

For several years I have talked about writing a song called “The Holding Place” because this story touched me so deeply.  But I find that sometimes that becomes a problem- something I care so much about becomes difficult to sufficiently express.  So it has taken a long time to write this one.  A few years ago, Jon (my sweetheart) jotted down a poem for me, hoping it would help me work through the creative problems that stood in my way of finishing it.  I saved the envelope he wrote it on 🙂 and used some of his ideas for the bridge.  I appreciate his constant support.

Another interesting tidbit is that I had a hard time writing the music for a while because I felt that I couldn’t totally relate to a father leaving his family.  I had a very steady and loving home-life growing up, so I wasn’t sure how to express what he had experienced.  When my youngest went to school last fall, he struggled each day going to school (fortunately he LOVES school now and is all smiles).  Big crocodile tears would roll down his face and he would ask “Why do I have to go to school?”  It was then, during the days when I had to send him to school with tear-stained cheeks and worry about him all day long, that I wrote “tell me the reason, I’ll try to be brave, but it makes no sense and I feel afraid…”

Musically, my favorite part is the bridge- where the momentum increases from a pensive, thoughful backdrop to a pulse.  “What should he tell them of the years gone by?  Of hurts and hopes and heaven?  They will understand in time…” and that winds back to the chorus.  That part was the most fun to write.

One other funny fact- if you were to compare the sheet music to the recording you’d see there are several (unintentional) differences.  You’d think I knew this piece inside and out after writing and editing it for several years, but I still ended up unintentionally changing lyrics and timing during the recording process!  I decided to leave the changes for now because I think they’re kind of a fun, spontaneous addition :).



Click here to hear it!  The Holding Place

Tell Me a Story...

Penny in my Pocket: The (short) Story


Hi all!  I spent the day recording and it’s time to pick up my sweet kiddos so this will be brief.  I shared the song “Sunset” several months ago- remember?  Well this one I promised to share as well and I’m just now getting it up here.  My friend Norm wrote the words for this one also, and I really love how bouncy and fun it is.  (Click on the link below to hear the recording!)

Penny in my Pocket


Tell Me a Story...

Say Yes: The Story

Mom and Dad, Thanksgiving 2016

About a year ago, my Dad went through a fight with lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) and came out on top.  As he was undergoing treatment, I was reflecting one day about the things my Dad had taught me, and two words came to mind: “Say Yes!”  It made me smile.

Em 2 My Dad has never turned down a dream or opportunity because it wasn’t practical or it didn’t seem realistic, or it wasn’t a comfortable idea.  He lives the “Dream Big” slogan.  Here he is (above) building his dream home with his sons/in-laws in his 50’s.  He did most of the labor himself.  He had dreamed for years about building a home someday, and he decided he wanted to do it; so he did.

It’s the same reason he has been a cabinet maker, an architect, a bee keeper, a pole vaulting coach, a butcher, a general contractor, and a hundred other things.  When the opportunity comes he says, “Why not?”  The crazier the opportunity, the more fun it sounds!  He is never satisfied with a comfortable, predictable, easy life (hmmm- on second thought he’s probably never tried it!).  He loves the feeling that he’s growing, learning and pushing the limits.  That makes him feel alive!

As I was looking through pictures today trying to decide which ones best illustrated the idea of “Say Yes,” I found these 4 pictures of my Dad interacting with my oldest son.  To me it’s a visual way of my Dad saying, “Come ‘ere and let me show you how fun life can be!”



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“Say Yes!” was a fun piece to write because it allowed me to really let loose and explore musically – the message is all about getting outside your comfort zone, after all!  It’s the first time I’ve tried putting another instrument in a recording besides piano and voice, so that was a fun way to explore new territory.

One of my favorite parts of this piece is the trills that the violin does, both in the middle of the piece (symbolizing the opportunity that is peeking around the corner) and at the end (we get one more “look” at the opportunity before the end).  I like the way this piece makes me feel more open and curious about the possibilities of life ahead.  It leaves a question mark in the listener’s mind at the end- “What is your opportunity and are you going to run and grab it?”

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Dad getting a good belly laugh during a family game of Minute-to-Win-it.

As Dad pushes the limits and gets outside of his comfort zone, he inspires me (and everyone else around him!) to “Say Yes!” too.

Merry Christmas, Dad!

(Click on the link below to hear the recording:)

Say Yes

Tell Me a Story...

Teach My Heart To See: The Story

Photo by Hunter Bryant on Unsplash

Hi friends!  Today I am sharing a piece I wrote last year with a friend. Here is some background and at the bottom of the post is the link to the recording.  I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

The Story of “Teach My Heart to See” as told by Laura Harper

(Music and Lyrics by Shaillé Claypool and Laura Harper)


     “Teach My Heart to See” was one of the most enjoyable music writing experiences I’ve had yet.  Mainly this was because it was my first collaboration with a talented musician- Shaillé Claypool.  Shaillé is my friend’s daughter’s friend- and now my good friend and collaborator! My friend Marlene “happened” to mention a woman in Spokane Valley who is writing music similar to mine, and I knew immediately that I needed to talk to her.  The next day our phone conversation flowed easily as we discussed music and the experiences we have had that are related. It was unbelievable how similar our stories are (our husbands are both optometrists!), and we felt like Heavenly Father had brought us together- there was no other way to explain how directed this potential collaboration felt.  

     As I finished “Master of Colors”, Shaillé was working on a draft of lyrics for “Seeing with the Heart”, a title which would change names two other times in the process.  I couldn’t believe how fast she could crank out full lyrics- it blew me away! The lyrics sat waiting for me in my inbox as I finished my other project, and then I sat down to work on the music.  I found that without worrying about the lyrics, the music flowed much more freely than it ever had. The process was playful and joyful, and experimental, and I soon emailed her a “skeleton” of the music portion with the lyrics typed in.  I had been learning a lot about Alan Menkin, so some of my writing reflects what I learned from videos I watched about his writing process and methods. Once we had both initially generated part of the song, we became full co-creators- working on both the lyrics and the music, working mainly through email, though we had the opportunity to work together in person on one exciting Saturday!

     A week before Easter, I was given the opportunity to sing the following Sunday (on Easter) during Sunday School.  I immediately thought of “our song” and wondered if we could finish the details in one week and have it ready to share.  Shaillé and I decided we were willing to try. It was a busy week of working out the kinks, but the Saturday of Easter weekend, the sheet music was finalized and ready to share.  

     I love this piece of music- it’s living and vibrant.  The words and lyrics are authentic and brim full with testimony.  Our hope is that this Easter season, and any time that the music is heard, it will strengthen faith and perhaps provide a glimpse of what was once invisible!

Teach My Heart To See

Tell Me a Story...

“When I leave this frail existence…”

Many do not have the privilege of having a relationship into adulthood with their Grandparents, not to mention Great-grandparents.  I have been blessed to have known well all 4 of my grandparents, all of whom have had an impact on my life in various ways.  This week my Grandad Gates was the first of my grandparents to pass from this life to the next.

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I’m the baby in white! Grandad is standing in a light suit, Grannie is sitting in front of him.

His name was known by many in the world (he was a well-known composer and symphony conductor), but to me, he was my Grandad.  When I was little, our family took occasional road trips from Washington to Wisconsin so we could visit Grannie and Grandad (and for reunions with the Gates family as in the photo above).  We spent a lot of time all together on those trips, but I remember one specific bonding moment when Grandad invited me into his study alone, set me on his lap, and played a game of memory with me on his computer.  I don’t remember much else, except that when I walked out of that study, I felt smarter than when I had entered.  He had a knack for building people up and helping them see the best in themselves.

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Grannie and Grandad have celebrated many major milestones with me: my baptism, my graduation, and my wedding (photo above) to name a few.  They have been able to know my husband, support us in our marriage, and they have celebrated several special occasions with us as our little family has grown.  What a blessing that my children know their great-grandparents!

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Grannie getting to know her new grandson (my first). Grannie and Grandad flew out to Houston for his baby blessing and my college graduation.
Grandad’s turn to hold my new babe! This is a photo from that same visit to Houston.
Visiting with Grannie and Grandad Gates at their home in Utah.

Several years ago when I had just begun writing my first piece, my oldest son commented to his brother, “Mom is writing music, just like Grandad does!”

Grandad was in his mid-nineties and lived a wonderful, full live, so there is much to rejoice over about his life, and little to mourn.  We will miss his presence here, and yet we can only imagine the happy reunions in heaven.

As I prepared to put the finalizing details on “Come Home” last week, I had an interesting experience.  We had received news that Grandad Gates had been hospitalized due to a heart attack the weekend before, but it looked like he was on the mend, and would bounce back as he has done many times in the past.  But on Monday, the news was not nearly as optimistic, and it was not a hard leap to see that we may not have much time left with him.

My first thought when I read the email sharing the most recent updates about Grandad  was “Tonight I will finish “Come Home” and send it to Grannie and Grandad Gates.”  I thought it might be an enjoyable distraction for Grannie, spending many hours in a hospital. And in case it was the last time I’d have the chance, I wanted to share with Grandad one last piece that I had written- from one composer to the other.   So I finished the last details and sent it off.

Grandad stabilized enough for him to be moved to an assisted living facility a few days after his heart attack.  Then less than 24 hours later, his spirit was freed and he returned to his Heavenly home.  Grandad left a larger-than-life legacy behind, and there are so many things that I could share in memory of him here, including many inspiring pieces of music that he composed.  But I keep reflecting on the one-on-one experiences I’ve had with him that are mine alone to treasure and share.  I’ll share two experiences that had a particular impact on me.

When I was 19 and going to college at BYU (Provo, Utah), I lived closer to my Grandparents than I ever had been before.  They lived in Wisconsin during my early years (while we were in Washington State) and then they moved to Utah.  So it was a neat opportunity to live close by, and develop an adult relationship with them.

One day on a visit to my Grandparents’ home, I was in Grandad’s study and somehow we got on the topic of dying.  He had probably said something offhand about dying someday.  I asked him if he was afraid of dying (because I sure was!).  He very emphatically said, “No, I’m not.” And then he went on to explain: “When we die, it’s like walking from one room in our house to the next room.  There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

I’ve never forgotten that conversation.  Grandad was not afraid to die.

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This visit was right before I began a summer term at BYU. Here I am with Grannie, outside Grannie and Grandad’s home in Utah.

The second was an experience I had in my parent’s home in Washington State.  Grannie and Grandad Gates had come to visit and I was there for the occasion as well.  I had started composing music about a year before, and had found that although it was exhilarating, I struggled with self-doubt and perfectionism as I wrote every phrase.  I sat down next to him in the living room and engaged Grandad in a discussion.  I asked him some questions and I wrote down some key things he shared.  Here are a few of the nuggets:

-None of us are perfect, but we are DANG GOOD!

-You must not be negative about yourself- that is a decision.

-Thank the Lord for the gift you’ve been given and ask him to magnify it on the next go.

-Be the best YOU can be- not compared to anyone else- not me (Grandad) or anyone else.

-If you are finding joy in writing music and time flies, that means you’ve joined the club; I think Beethoven must have felt that way too.

Enjoying time with Grannie and Grandad

Many years ago, Grandad arranged the hymn “O My Father” (one of my favorites).  The words to verse 4 are so appropriate as we say goodbye to a dear Grandfather:

When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.

~O My Father


Grannie and Grandad Gates celebrating a special baptism day (my second son) last summer!

(There are many pictures of this wonderful couple I could end on, but currently this one is my favorite.  Here they are sitting with a great-grandson between them, filling him and us with their love and support.  They couldn’t miss this occasion to celebrate!)